I think that if you love someone, you don’t get to choose how they love you back.–N. K. Jemisin, The Stone Sky
I stumbled across a reference to The Snow Leopard a year and a half ago reading something somewhere about Buddhism. I bought a copy, read it, read it again, and have continued to read it, a bit here a bit there, right up to the present day. That is a long time to spend with a book, and yet it remains as fresh to me, as extraordinarily beautiful, and as deeply moving as it did when I first picked it up.
The story it tells is simple enough. Matthiessen and his friend GS, a wildlife biologist renowned for his field research, hike from Katmandu in Nepal up (and up and up) into a remote region of the Tibetan Himalayas to observe the rut of a little understood mountain goat. If they are fortunate, they also hope to see one of the elusive snow leopards known to live in the mountains. Matthiessen, a student of Zen Buddhism, would like to visit the aging Llama of the Crystal Monastery as well. Weather threatens them continually on the ascent and both supplies and the porters to carry them are limited, but the men eventually make it to Inner Dolpo on the Tibetan plateau, much later than planned but in time for the rut. GS studies the goats; Matthiessen visits the monastery. The men then descend back down into the world of the lower altitudes.
Within the frame of this simple story, Matthiessen experiences something that feels like the entirety of a life and his writing evokes that experience anew each time I read it. In this the book echoes Alejo Carpentier’s The Lost Steps.
The foundation here is a spare taut prose with breadth and sweep enough to capture an immense natural world while also remaining grounded enough to read as the language of a particular man and of his mind’s workings. The writing is always stunningly concrete even as he moves within deeply philosophical considerations of love, death, family, friendship, the nature of reality, and the existence of the self. His mind is strong, energetic, even stubborn yet also (amazingly) open, pliable, and generous.
I’ve spent eighteen months with Matthiessen’s book, and I’m certain he was a difficult and imperfect person, but as strange as it is to say, I suspect that many of the people who knew him fell in love with him and that, if I had, I would have as well.
So this movie came out and was a bit of a thing and so I watched it (over three or four days, because…sigh) and it got better, bit by bit, and by the end, I thought, “this is pretty okay” and I was moved even and inspired and put a picture of the Beav as my phone’s wallpaper (because, love) which turned out to be a revelation.
Because it was weird to have my phone light up as it was sitting on my desk, and suddenly, there’s the Beav—“Hi Beav!”—with a notification across his face. And then I thought, is this what the teenagers in love today do, put a pic on their phone?, or is this just a movie thing? Because it’s weird.
So I changed my wallpaper to a photo of sunrise on the river in fog and experienced the peculiar pleasure of being age appropriate.
This post should have been called “Back to Mac.” I’m out of practice and making religious metaphors when I should be making them about System Preferences.
I think of wild animals in our imaginations. And how they are disappearing—not just from the wild, but from people’s everyday lives, replaced by images of themselves in print and on screen. The rarer they get, the fewer meanings animals can have. Eventually, rarity is all they are made of. The condor is an icon of extinction. There is little else to it now but being the last of its kind. And in this lies the diminution of the world. How can you love something, how can you fight to protect it, if all it means is loss?—Helen MacDonald, H Is for Hawk
A year ago, I made the leap from Mac to PC by buying the pieces and building myself a gaming desktop. It was an impulsive move, motivated by too many years of frustration with the limits Mac hardware created for gaming. And I don’t regret it because no matter how often I play off gaming in conversation with casual acquaintances, it’s a big deal for me.
The stress point though was work: gaming’s fun but I use my computer daily for the grind and could I manage with a PC? Over the past year I discovered that I could, largely because Windows 10, unlike its recent predecessors, is a solid OS. And because my school is full-on PC land and the Mac-based fiction I’d dealt with for years disappeared, the jump to Windows was actually near painless.
The key word here is “near.”
The main problems? First: junkware. There are a lot of sketchy apps in Windows world and I’m just not interested enough to sort out what’s what. Macs feel secure and I believe Apple is interested in keeping them that way. Windows and Microsoft? Not so much. That may be out-dated prejudice given the changes in security features in Windows 10, but suspicions kept me close to the base system for much of the past year.
Second: buying Windows equivalents for Apple software is expensive. People gripe when a Mac app costs more than 10$, but spend some time in PC world and you’ll realize that the apps offered by Mac developers are a bargain. Even the “expensive” ones.
Third: Eastgate’s Tinderbox. I’d had periods in the past when I was confined to an iPad and have written about how difficult it was to do my work without Tinderbox’s various tools, most of which I’d come to take for granted. Those earlier moments had been temporary disruptions. But now, working on a PC, they became my new normal, and after a year of genuine, wide-ranging and eventually desperate experimentation, I realized I missed the software badly. I’d become something like a mental-cyborg used to lifting cars, who now suddenly, alarmingly, finds himself fully organic and stuck lifting groceries. Or maybe some over-filled garbage sacks. I’d grown used to thinking in a way that assumed that my info could be organized into forms I could think about. It was a constant annoyance (and also a real impediment) not to have the tools at hand to make that happen.
But I just sprang for a new MacBook Air—!!!!—and so I am now happily on macOS once again. My first thought: thank god. Yes, my Tinderbox query and action syntax is rusty (very!) and I’m having to find my way back into the forums and the TbRef, both of which feel for the moment like navigating a train station in a language I don’t quite speak. But I don’t care. As I’ve said elsewhere: TBX is powerful enough to be game-changing even with only it’s simplest tools in play. So it’s worth it already and I know the pay-offs will just get bigger as I fall back into the groove.
So for the record my current set-up, which seems close to my ideal, is a PC desktop for gaming and a MacBook for work. (iOS, as tempted as I am to be tempted, is a distraction and a dead-end for me. It’s just not part of the equation outside of my phone.)
And since it’s Thanksgiving in the States, let me say: I’m lucky to have the means to buy and maintain both systems.
These were choice documents to me. I read them over and over again with unabated interest. They gave tongue to interesting thoughts of my own soul, which had frequently flashed through my mind, and died away for want of utterance.–Frederick Douglass, The Narrative of the Life of…
A few years ago, I had my first-year research writing students work on the Martian rover missions for their end-of-semester projects. The assignment was a hit and listening to their presentations cemented my nostalgic, Johnny-5 style affection for Spirit and Opportunity.
This video is perfect.
In this play.